Settling Down: One Man’s Story of Challenges, Support and Acceptance
After spending most of his childhood in the foster care system and then becoming homeless, Michael was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 21
When Michael’s parents divorced around the time he was eight years old and Michael was put into the foster care system, he doesn’t remember getting very much help with mental health. Until he was 16, he lived between foster care and group homes, citing only that the time was “difficult.”
Michael Hobin started to see specialists when he was a small child. In fact, he remembers sitting in an office, playing with blocks, waiting to see a doctor. At the time, he didn’t know anything was wrong. In fact, at that time, 35 years ago, Schizophrenia, which he would eventually be diagnosed with, wasn’t even well known to psychiatry, let alone accepted in society.
When he turned 16 he was still living in his home province of Nova Scotia, and he was able to access an apartment as well as go to post-secondary school after high school.
But it was difficult to make the situation work, and by the time Michael was 19, he was cut off from funding and was “100 per cent” on his own.
“I decided at that time that I would just enjoy life,” he says, “and live in shelters like the Salvation Army and whatnot, across the country. I thought this was a normal, accepted way to live, and besides, I didn’t know much more than looking out for me.”
Michael tried to go back to school again, but it was incredibly hard being homeless and attending college.
His lifestyle as a somewhat nomadic homeless man led him south to Ottawa, where he was living at a shelter in the capital. After being there approximately one year, he was approached by a social worker.
“I told her that I had what I wanted in life for now and that I thought it was perfectly normal and acceptable. She asked me to see a psychiatrist, and I was told that my view on life was not the view of our general society and that I was suffering from schizophrenia. I was 21 years old,” Michael recalls.
After his diagnosis and beginning to receive treatment, Michael began to work steadily and live in supportive housing, and then on his own, back in Halifax.
“Then one day, I got a call,” he recalls.
Michael was found by his biological cousin who was searching for him on behalf of Michael’s father. After a short period of time, Michael’s father called and asked him to move to Calgary to live with him. He was 28 years old at the time.
Michael lived with his father for 10 years, but he felt something was missing – his independence.
After consulting with his therapist, he was referred to Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region and Horizon Housing Society, which work together to provide housing and supportive living services for people with a mental health condition living in Calgary. He was quickly approved for the program and was supplied his own apartment and access to a Supportive Living coordinator.
“While I was excited to be living independently, I remember when I moved in, and I was a wreck,” Michael says. “I felt I had abandoned my best friend – my father – and had trouble figuring out what was next or even who I was.”
Michael has now lived in one of our Supportive Living apartments for two years, and he has an assigned coordinator from CMHA, whom he meets with regularly, a community, and most importantly, his independence. He says he was able to overcome the feelings of leaving his father and still has a relationship with him.
“Now I am no longer that ‘sick kid’ at home. I visit (Dad) most weekends and help out with the house…having been in the (CMHA) program for two years, my independence and my family life has really changed.”
Our Peer Support program services can be accessed over the phone at 403-297-1402 or through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.